Last Fall, during our church’s Disciple Now (DNow) weekend, I was asked to share my testimony of how I, a DNow leader & redeemed sinner, was saved by a gracious God. Here is what I shared with the youth, parents, and fellow DNow leaders.
Good evening, friends. I stand before you a redeemed sinner, a sinner saved by grace, and this is how that very grace transformed my life.
I grew up attending church because being an African American, this was a cultural norm for my family. I was 12 when I was baptized and helped with different ministries yet I lived a life that didn’t reflect Christ. My high school years were the pinnacle of my rebellion. I did the things my classmates did: I ran away from home, I disrespected my parents, I got into drugs and alcohol. As I got older, and graduated from high school, I’d left the church I grew up in while my sinfulness continued to escalate, finding me with a desire to learn more about the occult and pagan practices. I read all the books that I could read, researched, and made purchases to support this newfound desire. It was interesting though – even though I wasn’t a Christian, I found myself praying to God, while in my ignorance, pursuing my new interest. At that time, I thought that I was a good person. I thought that I was going to Heaven. I thought that there were many ways to God, not just one. I thought I was perfectly fine doing what I was doing, but praise God that He did not see fit to leave me to that way of thinking.
On the evening before my 21st birthday, I met someone that spoke truth to me about the life I was living. He warned me that my new interest was dangerous and it scared me. I returned to the church I grew up in, afraid that God could never forgive me for what I’d done. The youth pastor at that church comforted me with the truth that God is a forgiving God and He could forgive me.
Over the next several months, the Lord was working in my heart, causing me to see my sinfulness more clearly. In the summer of 2002, God’s Gospel became clearer to me. I understood that my sin separated me from God and I deserved His wrath. It also became clear to me that God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to live the perfectly righteous life that I couldn’t and to die as a substitute in my place. Jesus took the wrath of God that I deserved. Three days after His death, Jesus rose from the dead proving His innocence and his righteousness. I knew my only hope was to respond to this gospel by repentance and faith and that is what I did. Over time, I saw evidence of a changed heart that had new desires. My desire toward sin was replaced with a desire to please God – a desire that only He could give! My life is different and I am a new creation in Christ. The cross changed my life and I now realize there is no greater joy than living a cross centered life.
This morning, while reading Matthew, I came across the following and my heart was struck in such a way to share. I have read this passage of Scripture many times, but as I thought through the great debt that we have been forgiven, I also thought about our tendency at times to hold grudges & to hold others to what we think they should be held to.
[The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant]
 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Matthew 18:21-35 ESV
A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer (10,000 talents were owed), & a denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer (100 denarii were owed).
So, looking at the difference between the 2 wages, it is very clear that one is a much greater debt. It almost seems impossible to pay it back. It is an absolutely impossible debt to repay. The smaller amount was much more feasible, and compared to the larger, it is barely a drop in the bucket.
We are born with that same type of debt – one that is absolutely impossible to make amends for. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. We are born sinful and death is the only thing we earn and deserve because God is Holy, perfect, & just. However, just like the servant in the passage above, God has shown mercy and has provided a way for our debt to be absolved and cancelled – His Son: Jesus Christ. When we place our faith and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we receive His righteousness. Our sin is taken out of our accounts and is replaced with righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). Those that are in Christ are forgiven much, and because of this great truth, our lives should be marked by forgiveness.
The servant in the above story seems to have quickly forgotten how great of a debt he was forgiven. I think, as Christians, we do too. When someone ‘crosses’ us, offends us, or does us wrong, we are so quick to write them off and make them pay in our hearts & minds. Praise God that He has not done this to us! He showed great grace and mercy to us and we should do the same. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God has given us new hearts in Christ Jesus, hearts that are able to forgive with the same forgiveness we have received. May we always remember, and be grateful for, the forgiveness of our infinite debt from a Holy God and seek to honor and glorify Him in our forgiveness, mercy, and grace toward others.
“Valley of Vision” is a collection of Puritan prayers. I read it often, using many of its prayers to ‘jumpstart’ my own. This is one of my favorite ones from the book. I especially like the sentence that says, I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the lest sin deserves infinite punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep. That is so beautiful to me and a great reminder of Truth – As a believer in Christ, I can not ‘out-sin’ God’s grace (however I should never try to either!). I am just so grateful for God’s mercy and grace shown to me through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Great God, in public and private, in sanctuary and home, may my life be steeped in prayer, filled with the spirit of grace and supplication, each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood. Help me, defend me, until from praying ground I pass to the realm of unceasing praise. Urged by my need, invited by Thy promises, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence, worshipping Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love.
I am all poverty as well as all guilt, having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee, but I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy thy justice. I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the lest sin deserves infinite punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep. Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits, by causing Thy goodness to pass before me, by speaking peace to my contrite heart; strengthen me to give Thee no rest untiI Christ shall reign supreme within me in every thought, word, and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world, works by love, fastens me to Thee, and ever clings to the cross.
– Published by Banner of Truth